Daniel Cormier hung on to his UFC title belt in Houston. | File photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
By the looks of UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, one would assume that he walked out of the Octagon the recipient of such a beating that he lost his title. While the first part is true -- he certainly took a hellacious thumping from Alexander Gustafsson -- Cormier’s grittiness and resolve allowed him to retain his 205-pound championship belt.
Cormier headlined UFC 192 in Houston and shared the stage with the always entertaining Gustafsson, the hulking Swede who gave Jon Jones all sorts of trouble when they met in 2013. Gustafsson did the same to “DC” and, like his battle with Jones, he came up just short via split decision.
Though Cormier won the fight on two of the three official cageside judges’ scorecards, his body took a beating in the process. At certain points in the 25-minute bout, Cormier envisioned some of his teammates and how they had to look deep within themselves in order to win. Being inspired by them, he said, it aided him in tapping into his seemingly endless courage to continue attacking “The Mauler.”
“I was tired in the fifth round but I just kept punching and punching and punching,” the battered Cormier said at the post-fight press conference. “I saw my teammate Luke Rockhold beat ‘Jacare’ [Ronaldo Souza] when he was a baby. He was exhausted but he kept punching and punching. I saw Cain [Velasquez] get his belt back from [Junior] dos Santos because he kept punching and punching. I had to do the same.”
Cormier believes he suffered a broken foot in the fight when Gustafsson checked a kick. He was also cut badly above his right eye, he was nearly knocked out when a knee detonated on his face and he was taken to the brink of exhaustion. That doesn’t even count the amount of times Cormier was punched and kicked during the battle.
“I feel pretty beat up,” Cormier admitted with a broken grin. “This is the worst I’ve ever been beat. Gustafsson is a stud.”
Cormier also couldn’t believe how incredibly durable and determined his challenger was as well. Though Gustafsson turned his back to the defending champ several times late in the fight, the bloody and swollen Swede never stopped trying to take his foe out. Gustafsson was somehow able to keep coming even after Cormier hit him with shots that would have knocked a normal human being senseless.
“I was in the clinch and I was hitting him so hard and I thought I was hurting him, but I wasn’t,” Cormier said in disbelief. “I was unloading uppercuts as hard as I could but he wasn’t going anywhere. That just shows how hard Anthony Johnson hits.
“Gustafsson is an absolute stud,” he reiterated. “I don’t want him to go anywhere because this sport needs him. There is nobody in the world who can say they fought Jon and I both to a split decision.”
After detailing his triumph with the assembled media, all sights turned to Cormier’s next opponent. Will it be Ryan Bader, who dominated former world champion Rashad Evans earlier on the UFC 192 bill? Or will Jones be able to right his wrongs and come back in time to try to reclaim the title he never lost?
To Cormier, it doesn’t matter. But there is one stipulation if he’s to have a second go-around with “Bones.”
“I don’t really care. I just like to fight,” he stated. “It kind of sucks getting kneed in the belly and punched in the face. Bader did a tremendous job in beating Rashad. Jon Jones is Jon Jones, and I think he’s the greatest fighter of all time. When he’s ready to come back, we’ll do it. But I’m not going to fight him in New York.”
Cormier had a good reason why he isn’t thrilled of the idea of fighting Jones in his home state whenever they do lock horns again.
“When Jon Jones gets reinstated, New York will probably be the only place that will fully accept him and he won’t have to hear any anger or venom,” he said. “I don’t want to fight him in a place where he’ll be completely comfortable. I want him to be uncomfortable.”
While Cormier takes a much-needed reprieve, he’ll eventually have a clearer picture as to whom he’ll be taking on when he next defends his title. Cormier admitted that he doesn’t know how much longer he can keep fighting and questioned how long his body will hold up.
The one certainty in his life is that he has unfinished business with Jones. Whether he fights Bader first before taking on Jones again remains to be seen.